My cell hasn’t stopped buzzing since this morning. I haven’t written the latest bestseller, neither have I scored a half century at Lords nor have I found out that Bin Laden is still alive. I have still not breached my boundaries of a fairly simplistic existence in any manner and yet my cell has been incessantly buzzing with messages wishing me and my family a prosperous, happy, safe and what-not Diwali.
Having immersed myself in some of the Freakonomics theories to quite an extent, I found myself asking the question, “Why do people send these mass messages/e-mailers wishing others on festivals like Diwali?” My question is specific to only these “mass dispatches” and not towards people wishing each other on Diwali and the like on a one-on-one basis.
I even mapped the profile of people who sent me these messages. Who exactly are these people? I didn’t get too far with this one. There were all kinds. Vendors, agencies, bosses and friends. There was no way I could find a common thread in this diverse group of people. My next step was to map these people on demographics. Here too, there was no skew towards any gender or age. So this theory also went for a toss. As a last resort, I shall try to put in my understanding of this phenomenon.
But before that, a basic truth of our times. Technology has infinitely increased convenience and killed the warmth between people. Earlier, Ms. Arora and family would either meet up or call Ms. Bhandari and family on Diwali day. Today, Ms. Arora finds the click of an SMS to be of immense convenience to make up for that meeting or call or that greeting card. Now this is between friends who’ve been there for each other for some time. There’s another side to it and this is where I think I might be jumping into a controversial net. But let’s see if we can think this through.
These SMS/Mailers have helped people who hardly know me to wish me. This has enabled these people to cast the net of their acquaintances wide without any incremental cost. The downside being that if I hardly know anyone, receiving a “Happy Diwali” SMS from these people is not exactly my idea of the beginning of an endearing relationship with such people. I’m sure these people are also aware of this fact. If they are, then why do they still do it? More importantly, do these people expect a reply from us? In case of mass e-mailers, am not sure if they do or not but in case of SMS’, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that they are expecting a reply. This means I receive an SMS from someone wishing me “Happy Diwali” which doesn’t excite me at all. As a gesture of simple courtesy, (I make it a point to always respond whenever approached on mail/call/SMS/Orkut) I reply politely wishing the sender as well. Now this is obviously personalized because I’m replying to someone’s message. The sender feels good having received this personalized reply. It is now that the whole exercise of wishing people through mass mailers/SMS’ seems that bit of a farce to me.
Firstly, you put me in a mass basket.
Secondly, if I reply, you’re happy about it.
Thirdly, in this whole exercise, I didn’t feel special at all getting either wished or wishing you. Nevertheless, you’re the one who walked away with the personalized reply.
It somehow hence seems that the people who actually were sending these mass messages want to be wished themselves. I’d agree that no one consciously sends these dispatches thinking that ‘Since I want to be wished let me send out an SMS/E-mail to the 312 people in my address book.’ But the more I think about it, it appears to me that the singular underlying motive for which people seem to be sending these “mass dispatches” is self-gratification.
While it might be a coincidence, a majority of my friends, who sent these messages were also single. This also leads me to believe that for such people their need for self-gratification was even more than the average 24 year old who was committed, engaged or married. These were all nice people but probably lacked that constant backing in their life that keeps them informed about how nice or good or great their own existence was. Consequently being wished in return on an occasion like Diwali just happens to be an occasion to feel good about themselves.
A loophole in my explanation is that why do I feel obliged to reply. I could rant about courtesy but my simple view is every action has a reaction. My reaction is against the stimulus and here I’m trying to pin down the reason for the stimulus.
Another view that might go against my theory is that these people wished others on a mass basis because they simply thought it’s a nice gesture to wish everyone with least effort. That’s all!
To which my reply is, if someone is that special enough to deserve this nice gesture, what’s a little extra effort in sending a simple personalized SMS/E-Mailer? And if someone is not that special enough then why even bother?